Being one of the biggest islands in the world, Borneo (Kalimantan, in bahasa) is not only very rich in biodiversity compared to many other areas (MacKinnon et al. 1998) for its treasure. Borneo also discovered as one of the place that has the biggest amount of ancient rock-art in the world
This expedition was a part of my lecturer dissertation, Pindi Setiawan. The subject is about “Penelitian Gambar Cadas Kutai Prasejarah” (The Research of Ancient Kutai Rock Art). The research itself included the rock art reconstruction, identifying gender (okay, that was my job desc), cave mapping, and creating the 3d modeling and simulation. Well, If some of you have read National Geographic Indonesia few month ago (explaining about Karst), you will get familiar with my next explanation.
“Deep within the Cliffside caves of eastern Borneo; 10,000-year-old paintings featuring the hands of the artists themselves may offer clues about ancient migrations.” Luc-Henry Fage
The Borneo Rock Art research actually have been started since 1995 by an archeological team consisted of Luc-Henri Fage; Jean-Michel Chazine, a French archaeologist and specialist in Oceanian prehistory; and Pindi Setiawan an Indonesian anthropologist. Together, year after year, they found dozens of caves with paintings throughout the region, some with unique designs hinting at a mysterious forgotten people. Those caves can be found in Marang mountains (also known as Gunung gergaji—Saw Mountains). During 1995-2002, the team has discovered at least 30 rock-art-caves which made by the ancient Nusantara people in the end of the ice age. The main characteristic of ancient Kutai rock art is on the picture. The rock art was using hematite* as the technique, whether using spread technique or brush technique.
*more about hematite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematite
Before started our journey, we slept in Nek Tewet House which located in Bengalon for a night. From Bengalon, the team divided into 2: The first was Mr. Pindi using three motor boats picking our need using water way together with Nek Tewet. Another team brought the tools and equipments by land road, using car. We met in Hambur Batu.
There is no traditional market in Hambur Batu. This picture shows the selling activity in Hambur Batu besides Night market. The seller himself usually doesnt come from Kalimantan. In fact, most of them are Javanese.
Mobile phone signal is extremely rare in this location for all operator but sometimes we still can get it in certain place, for example: this tree. Citizen of Hambur Batu believe that the can get some phone signal there even though not every time. Besides this tree, people are used to hang their phone on the wall. The signal doesn’t come anytime, yet sometimes sms’ still can reach their number.
Threatened by mining industry and deforestation, Borneo is in dangerous. Not only for the biodiversity itself, those threat also endanger the water supplies in Borneo. Karsts are a natural way to keep tons of water for Borneo land. Mining energy have exploited most place in Kalimantan: coal, diamond, cement, etc. Most fires in Borneo are set for land-clearing purposes. While the Indonesian government has historically blamed small-scale swidden agriculturalists for fires, WWF noted that satellite mapping has revealed that commercial development for large-scale land conversion — especially oil palm plantations — was the largest single cause of the 1997-98 fires.
Half Full-Half Empty
Found by Nek Tewet**, Liang Tewet located in the middle of the Gergaji mountains.Gergaji Mountain has longitudinal direction for approximately 32 º -212 º. The peak of this mountain can reach 500m over the sea surface.Elevation differences between the cave mouth and the river is more than 100 meter.To reachLiang Tewet, we have to go through Jeleriver, a tributary of Bengalun River. We took the river way from Hambur Batu to Mahau.Before that, we had to get almost 11 hours on road (7 hours from Balikpapan to Bengalon, 2 Hours to Sangatta, and2 hours to Hambur batu). The river way took almost 3-4 hours to Marang Mountain (using boat) and about 15-30 minutes walk and climb. The duration of water way depends on the season. It much faster if the river is full with water (it was dry season when we were there). Jya….we tasted the first rain while there!
**Nek is nickname for Kutai eldest. By the way, the cave’s name deprived from the name of the person who discovered it. Mr Pindi also has his own cave 😛
Honestly, I didn’t take many photos during my time inside the Liang Tewet. I’m too busy with my own duty took detail of the hand stamp, printed it, then traced it onto transparent plastic. But anyway, things which happened inside the cave was mapping the hand stamp overall. There was no such a interesting object except the ancient hand stamp it self –which are flat and placed on the plafond. So, I was focusing on the journey. Mas Sunu and om Toink are the person who took photograph of our activity the most. So, this photo courtesy also goes to them. *Btw, I think I’ve lost one gigabyte of picture from my SD card, zzzzz. Accidentally erased, probably 🙁 *
Picture below are taken by Om Toink and Mas Sunu
The water source (river) is so far down the cave. We use used can to gather water from the rain drops that absorbed by the soil above the cave. We used it for washing hands, washing dishes, and drinking — if the water havent been delivered upwards the cave only.
There are few function of the ancient cave in Kalimantan: habitation, ritual summoning, etc Liang Tewet, probably a kind of cave which used for initiation – a ritual to celebrate someone of being mature.
Tewet consist of (approximately) 163 hand stamp. We can see the hand stamps on the cave plafond. This is not including the wash out stamp. Some of the picture couldn’t be revealed again because of weather (direct sunlight from the West side affect the contrast of the image a lot), time, water, and forest fire. Well, It was more than 10 years ago since the previous research team came to this cave before the real research in 2008. Besides hand stamps, there are also some paintings appear in tewet: gecko and deer.
“They [the cave painters] were artists because art consists in transmitting an emotion. The paintings were not put there just for decoration; it was a religious act,”
I hope I still can be a part of this research again. 😀
Wish me luck! And hope we’ll get many kind donators. (Yeah… money is really important, indeed)
www.kalimanthrope.com (the website is in francais).
Indonesian Article About Mapping Liang Tewet
Pindi Setiawan (Lead Project)
Sunu Widjanarko (mapping team, ASC)
Ryky Raymond (mapping team, ASC)
Erlangga Esa Laksmana (mapping team, ASC)
Fathoel ‘Toink’ Arifin (Senior caver, HIKESPI)
Rahma Utami (illustrator, DKV ITB)
Pasca Susena Hadiman (post pro 3 D modeling, DKV ITB)
From Left to Right : Ryky Raymond, Rahma Utami (me), Pindi Setiawan, Sunu Widjanarko, Yunus, Erlangga Esa Laksmana.
Porter and Helmsmen:
All are native Kutai.
Heldy (my hero ), lho?? :P. He was my personal assistant and a great helmsman of my boat!
Nikon 70-300 F/3,5 – 5,6 belongs to Akbar Ilham Manangkasi (http://cebicebicebicebi.deviantart.com)